Wine – especially red wine – is one of my hobbies. There’s something special about this red liquid with its unique aroma. Spending some time in a winery is also a unique experience. Nowhere else you can breathe the air and enjoy something like that.
The so-called “western” religions of the world possess special attitudes towards wine. Islam forbids it altogether. Christianity associates it (how expected) with Jesus and his blood. Judaism… well… here comes another funny chapter of Judaism’s complex “Kosher” rules.
It starts with the blessing. Generally, no other eaten fruit or vegetable deserves its own blessing, but grapes do. If we eat an orange or a banana, we’re supposed to thank God for creating fruits, but when eating grapes, we’re especially thanking His Majesty for creating the grapevine. Furthermore, we’re supposed to drink wine on certain rituals, and the important thing is the fruit not the alcohol, i.e., grape juice would do fine. God is not terribly interested in the aftereffects.
Certain “general” Kosher rules, which apply to all fruits, apply here too. We’ll skip these for now. The interesting ones that apply to wine (or grape juice, for that matter) in particular, have to do… with the religious customs of the manufacturer.
You see, long ago Jews found out that wine is also used in “foreign” rituals, which are a big no-no in Judaism. Hence “foreign wine” became extremely forbidden. Here comes evolution (of religion, that is), which has gradually changed “foreign wine” into “wine made by non-religious people”. So, nowadays, in modern Israel, wine is formally declared “Kosher” only if manufactured by religious Jews.
Funny thing is, many so-called ignorant secular Israelis don’t really know about all this. They just look for the “Kosher” stamp, as if it has to do with some health supervision. So they sin twice: They look for something that humiliates themselves (not to mention – hurts the social rights of equal work opportunities), but they also drink non-Kosher wine. They pay for the Kosher mechanism, but by the time the wine touches their lips – it becomes non-Kosher by definition. Ah, the irony…
There is one exception for this rule, however. Judaism found out that “cooked wine” was not used for foreign rituals (don’t ask). Hence, “cooked wine” does not get contaminated by the touch of non-religious Jews like you and me. Problem is we all know the bad influence of cooking on modern wine’s taste. The genius solution – eat the cake and leave it whole, sort of: An exact temperature has been devised, in which some steam is applied to the wine during manufacturing – a temperature which is low enough to inflict only minor damage on the flavor, but high enough to please the Lord.